Today is (was?) her birthday. Yesterday, I would have been searching for the perfect gift. Finding a gift, I admit, is not one of my strengths. I am miserable at gift giving — I wait until the last minute. For my Mom, not only did I wait until the last minute, but I would also get her, really, the last thing she wanted. Why did I get her something that was already, and still is, growing in abundance, under her steady green thumb? Instead of flowers, I think what she really wanted, was my time. A gift that I thought I did not have the luxury to give.
Two years ago her birthday was only more than a month away from her death. Which, I might add, I did not see coming. I ordered flowers — early — this time. The flowers arrived, but they were dead. I did have them replaced, of course. But, I know I let her down. I could hear it in her voice — but I didn’t know what to do to fix things.
The next time we talked, it was Sunday — lunch time. We just got home from vacation the day before. I know she wished we had invited her to come with us. I should have. I called her for her recipe for vegetable soup. I can’t remember what I wanted to know — something about tomatoes? — but I remember at the end, she suggested that I add cabbage. I hadn’t remembered this. Cooked cabbage in her vegetable soup is good. I added it. This was our last conversation. After that, the words went something like this: “can you hear me,” “please get better,” and “I love you.”
We didn’t talk about my poor choice in gift-giving. She didn’t tell me she wanted to see more of me. We let it all go unsaid. We could have, eventually, laughed this off.
This haunted me. Words of comfort were offered, nothing helped. The tears that flowed from my eyes over the next months, burned my cheeks.
It took me awhile after her funeral, to bring myself up to the task of choosing her gravestone. Almost as if my legs were pulled out from beneath me, I couldn’t imagine marching through the rest of my days — years — without her. I was also her executrix, and her estate was a legal nightmare. I had meetings to go to, sitters to arrange, and cold, unfriendly-certified letters to sign for. The last thing my nerves could take was a gravestone selection.
One night, I was sitting at the table reading a book (can’t remember what it was), while my two oldest boys were doing homework. I found a passage, which may be familiar to you, but was new to me. As I read, my boys quietly and quickly left the table, and went over to Dad, and whispered, “Why is she crying again?”
The words I read gave me the inspiration and motivation I needed to order her gravestone. My brother and I agreed, it was worth the extra money to have the whole poem engraved. If you think about it – this stone will endure longer than her life. Is it corny? Yes, maybe? But when you’re grieving, sometimes you need a little extra help from “author unknown” to show you the way. Hopefully, now she understands my heart was in the right place, and she can accept the flowers she so deserved.
If roses grow in Heaven,
Lord, please pick a bunch for me,
Place them in my Mother’s arms
and tell her they’re from me.
Tell her that I love her and miss her,
and when she turns to smile,
place a kiss upon her cheek
and hold her for a while.
Because remembering her is easy,
I do it everyday,
but there’s an ache within my heart
that will never go away.